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Gender: Male
Hometown: South Texas. most of my life I lived in Austin and Dallas
Home country: United States
Current location: Bryan, Texas
Member since: Sun Aug 14, 2011, 02:57 AM
Number of posts: 89,028

About Me

Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Homelessness is No. 1 public safety issue in Waikiki, Honolulu police chief says

Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard pledged to improve public safety by working with Waikiki stakeholders to make the state’s top tourism district “uncomfortable” for homeless people.

Ballard gave the keynote speech Thursday at a Visitor Public Safety Conference held at the Waikiki Prince Hotel. The event was sponsored by the Hawaii Lodging &Tourism Association, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Waikiki Improvement Association, Waikiki Business Improvement District Association and Hawaii Hotel Visitor Industry Security Association.

Ballard told some 200 conference attendees that she knew their “No. 1 issue, without even asking, is homelessness.”

Waikiki Neighborhood Board Chairman Bob Finley agreed, saying he recently got a call from a 92-year-old woman complaining about homeless people blocking the steps to her building. Finley said he also gets complaints about homeless people “moving their bowels on the beach” or “screaming obscenities.”

Read more: https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/03/29/hawaii-news/homelessness-dominates-public-safety-concerns-at-waikiki-conference/

State Senate approves $60M aid package for Hawaii County

The Senate gave final approval today to a $60 million aid package for Hawaii County to help the island from the Kilauea lava flow that destroyed more than 700 homes last year and a tropical storm in August that caused serious flooding.

The package includes $20 million that the county can use as a local match for federal disaster assistance and another $40 million in state loans.

The funding, outlined in House Bill 1180, will be sent to the governor for final approval. But the county has already begun looking at how to appropriate the aid based on a proposal that Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim provided to the county council earlier this week, said Hawaii County Councilman Tim Richards during a press conference at the State Capitol today.

Richards said top priorities include rebuilding roads and other infrastructure affected by the volcanic eruption in Puna, as well as helping small businesses and revitalizing the tourism industry.

Read more: https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/03/29/hawaii-news/state-senate-approves-60m-aid-package-for-hawaii-county/

Guam whistleblower: $13M tobacco tax unpaid

The government of Guam missed out on $13 million in underreported tobacco tax from just one wholesaler alone over several years, even when the matter was brought to the attention of the Department of Revenue and Taxation in the previous and current administrations by a whistleblower, the whistleblower alleges in a lawsuit filed in federal court on March 27.

The whistleblower, Frank San Agustin, alleged in the lawsuit filed in the District Court of Guam that an unnamed local tobacco wholesaler’s alleged "scheme of tax evasion" caused the alleged underreporting of almost $2.29 million in tobacco taxes a year, or an "unreported and unpaid liability of $13 million" over several years. Cigarette brands such as Wild Horse, Traffic and Ocean are mentioned in the whistleblower lawsuit.

"Upon information and belief, the illegal scheme accounts for roughly 30 percent of all cigarettes the tax evader supplies to retailers in a month," the lawsuit alleges. "Upon information and belief, the tax evader sold or illegally gave away, on average, the equivalent of a 20-foot container of cigarettes each month. As a 20-foot container holds approximately 21,250 cartons of cigarettes, 30 percent of that number, or 6,375 cartons of cigarettes, were not being reported for tax purposes."

There is a $30 tax on every carton of cigarettes, so the untaxed cartons add up in a year to about $2.29 million in underreported tax, the lawsuit alleges. Whistleblower lawsuits in federal court allow for a plaintiff to share a portion of amounts successfully recovered from an alleged tax evasion scheme.

Read more: https://www.postguam.com/news/local/whistleblower-m-tobacco-tax-unpaid/article_c394bb62-512f-11e9-bf8a-ef05692cddc4.html

Guam included in Radiation Exposure Compensation Act expansion bill

Guam is among the new jurisdictions that would be eligible for radiation exposure compensation under a U.S. Senate bill that proposes to widen the eligibility requirements for health benefit claims.

The territory’s inclusion in the proposed Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019—filed by U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)— marks progress in Guam’s advocates’ longstanding battle for extension of compensation to local residents exposed to radiation during U.S. Pacific nuclear testing from 1946 to 1962.

Also included the amendment bill are Idaho, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.

The bill would increase compensation and widen eligibility requirements for victims denied government help for more than 50 year for health problems relating to cancer caused by radioactive fallout from nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s.

Read more: https://pacificnewscenter.com/guam-included-in-reca-expansion-bill/

Groups lobby Guam governor to either sign or veto recreational marijuana bill

Two groups of private citizens personally lobbied Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Friday afternoon to veto or sign the recreational marijuana legalization bill that's now on her desk.

The governor met separately with the groups, assuring each of them that she listened to their concerns and that she will thoroughly review Bill 32 before she makes a decision.

Her deadline to sign or veto the bill is April 9, she said, or the measure becomes law without her signature.

"It's an issue that has conjured up a lot of debate and discussion in the community. That's good. That's democracy. Freedom of speech, so I wanted to make sure that both sides are given an opportunity to express themselves," she told the groups.

Read more: https://www.guampdn.com/story/news/local/2019/03/29/groups-lobby-governor-either-sign-veto-recreational-marijuana-bill/3296576002/

Alaska Legislature Alaska House sends disaster-relief bill to governor's desk

JUNEAU — Seventy-four days into the 31st Alaska Legislature, lawmakers have sent their first bill to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

In a unanimous 32-0 vote Friday, the Alaska House of Representatives approved a measure appropriating $150.3 million in federal and state money for disaster relief following the Nov. 30 Southcentral earthquake and in preparation for this summer’s wildfire season. Eight members were excused absent. Nine million dollars had already been allocated; Friday’s vote increases that amount by $141.3 million.

It’s the first bill to pass both the House and Senate this year, though both bodies have passed joint nonbinding resolutions.

According to state officials, Alaska’s disaster relief fund will be empty by April 1, and Friday’s vote — which followed an 18-0 vote in the Alaska Senate on Monday — will refill that fund.

Read more: https://www.adn.com/politics/alaska-legislature/2019/03/29/alaska-house-sends-disaster-relief-bill-to-governors-desk/

Internal report says Alaska Mental Health Trust nominee 'acted inappropriately' at Juneau bar

JUNEAU — A state appointee from Gov. Mike Dunleavy is facing scrutiny after an employee of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority complained about his behavior in a Juneau bar in January.

Human resources staff at the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority investigated a report from a woman and interviewed two witnesses who supported her account. The woman said Joe Riggs touched her on the cheek and shoulder during a conversation that made her uncomfortable. The report found evidence that Riggs “acted inappropriately.” There are no allegations of criminal conduct.

Riggs has been nominated to be a trustee on the trust’s board and, if appointed, would not directly supervise the woman. He would be among a group of trustees who oversee the trust’s CEO, who in turn supervises employees.

“I find there is reasonable evidence to conclude the nominee behaved inappropriately during this interaction,” a human resources investigator wrote in a memo dated March 19 to the woman who made the complaint. “While this incident did not occur in the workplace, it did involve a potential trustee of the AMHTA, and it understandably upset you.”

Read more: https://www.adn.com/politics/2019/03/27/internal-report-says-alaska-mental-health-trust-nominee-acted-inappropriately-at-juneau-bar/

Two Air Force commanders relieved of duty for hazing in Alaska, Washington

FAIRBANKS—Two lieutenant colonels have been relieved of their commands based on the investigation of a hazing practice that involved binding airmen with duct tape, according to a Friday announcement from Eielson Air Force Base's 354th Fighter Wing.

The two lieutenant colonels are squadron commanders based at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Anchorage and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. The hazing reportedly occurred at all the squadron locations including at Detachment 1, an Air Force detachment at Fort Wainwright, according to an email from the Eielson public affairs office.

The news release stated an investigation found a hazing practice known as "rolling up" was common in the the two squadrons. Rolling up involved "tackling or restraining an airman, binding their hands or feet using duct tape, and allowing the individual to struggle before being released."

"According to the investigation, many airmen in the squadrons viewed 'rolling up' as being based on camaraderie and bonding, but that participation was based more on peer pressure than on enjoyment of the activity," the news release stated.

Read more: http://www.newsminer.com/news/alaska_news/two-air-force-commanders-relieved-of-duty-for-hazing-in/article_a621eec2-528f-11e9-9d27-abba4387a853.html

After hearing from 1,800 Alaskans, House ready to form budget to counter Dunleavy's

After hearing from hundreds of Alaskans around the state, House and Senate leaders shed a little light on their budget outlook and process Thursday.

Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, the co-chair of the House Finance Committee, said around 1,800 Alaskans weighed in on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget during recent community meetings around the state organized by the committee and during House Finance Committee public testimony. Foster said that by a 5-to-1 margin, members of the public who spoke to the committee were opposed to the state making the extensive cuts proposed by the governor.

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said while most people were opposed to the cuts, they still heard from people on the other side of the spectrum.

“It’s not to belie the fact that there are a lot of people out there who want a full PFD and would like to say deep cuts, probably deeper cuts,” Edgmon said, “but the vast majority of people we heard did not give us that message.”

Read more: https://www.juneauempire.com/news/after-hearing-from-1800-alaskans-house-ready-to-form-budget-to-counter-dunleavys/

Alaska state senators say permanent fund dividends formula could be changed

Lawmakers are considering changing how permanent fund dividends are set, as they weigh the size of the state budget.

For the past three years, the state government hasn’t followed the formula to set PFDs that is in state law.

But a few factors have brought the PFD formula to the forefront. One is the election of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who was elected in part based on a pledge to maintain dividends. Lawmakers also don’t want setting the dividend level to be an annual fight.

There’s also a practical problem. It used to be that PFDs were the only thing that permanent fund earnings would be spent on. With oil production and prices down, the Legislature has turned toward the fund’s earnings to pay for government as well. But without changes to the PFD, dividends could consume the vast majority of the earnings.

Read more: https://www.alaskapublic.org/2019/03/29/alaska-state-senators-say-pfd-formula-could-be-changed/
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